Personality‐driven life history trade‐offs differ in two subpopulations of free‐ranging predators

Published on
27. July 2020

Personality‐driven life history trade‐offs differ in two subpopulations of free‐ranging predators

Félicie Dhellemmes, Jean‐Sébastien Finger, Matthew J. Smukall, Samuel H. Gruber, Tristan L. Guttridge, Kate L. Laskowski, Jens Krause


  1. Consistent individual differences in behaviour (i.e. personality) can be explained in an evolutionary context if they are favoured by life history trade‐offs as conceptualized in the pace‐of‐life syndrome (POLS) hypothesis. Theory predicts that faster‐growing individuals suffer higher mortality and that this trade‐off is mediated through exploration/risk‐taking personality, but empirical support for this remains limited and ambiguous. Equivocal support to the POLS hypothesis suggests that the link between life history and personality may only emerge under certain circumstances. Understanding personality‐driven trade‐offs would be facilitated by long‐term studies in wild populations experiencing different ecological conditions.
  2. Here, we tested whether personality measured in semi‐captivity was associated with a growth‐mortality trade‐off via risk‐taking in the wild in two subpopulations of juvenile lemon sharks Negaprion brevirostris known to differ in their predator abundance. We expected stronger personality‐driven trade‐offs in the predator‐rich environment as compared to the predator‐poor environment.
  3. Sharks were captured yearly from 1995 onwards allowing us to obtain long‐term data on growth and apparent survival in each subpopulation. We then used a novel open‐field assay to test sharks for exploration personality yearly from 2012 to 2017. A subset of the tested sharks was monitored in the field using telemetry to document risk‐taking behaviours. We tested (a) if fast explorers in captivity took more risks and grew faster in the wild and (b) if natural selection acted against more explorative, faster‐growing sharks.
  4. In the subpopulation with fewer predators, more explorative sharks in captivity took more risks in the wild and grew faster. In turn, larger, fast‐growing sharks had lower apparent survival. In the predator‐rich subpopulation, despite finding selection on fast growth, we found no link between exploration personality and the growth‐mortality trade‐off.
  5. Our study demonstrates that the association between personality and life history is favoured in some ecological contexts but not in others. We identify predator and resource abundance as two main potential drivers of the personality‐mediated trade‐off and emphasize that future work on the POLS hypothesis would benefit from an approach integrating behaviour and life history across ecological conditions.

Journal of Animal Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13283


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